Le Fooding: The Brooklyn Version

The famous French eating festival has finally arrived in Brooklyn, which, some might say, has the most European restaurant scene in New York. Created by Alexandre Cammas in Paris, Le Fooding has spread a concept of modern, edgier, and culture-focused eating in France, New York, and Milano for the last twelve yeras. Now, after three turns in NYC, Le Fooding has concentrated its efforts in Brooklyn.

And you, dear readers, can buy tickets for the event early by clicking this link.

This year they have four main events: Le Clicquot Brooklyn tour, cinematic brunches, Le Fooding lunches at the flea markets, and the Le Fooding Campfire Session. For the Clicquot Brooklyn Tour, they will feature four $75 dinners, complete with a half bottle of Veuve Clicquot, that pair Brooklyn chefs with their foreign “twins.” Meaning at the September 19 dinner, Brian Leth, the Vinegar Hill House chef, will cook with Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook, the guys from the popular Los Angeles restaurant Animal. On the 20th, you get a lovely pairing of Frankies 457 Spuntino’s owners Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli with southern darling Sean Brock, who runs the farm-to-table joint Husk in Charleston, North Carolina. For the third dinner, they have Neal Harden and Alain Senderens preparing a vegan meal with the Paris-based chef Daniel Rose. Finally, the last meal of the series features a nomadic feast where Le Fooding organizers have opened up a kitchen in Dustin Yellin’s new building, The Intercourse, to host great chefs who currently don’t have their own restaurant. This means you can sample fare by British chaps Isaac McHale and James Lowe of the Young Turks, Ignacio Mattos, formally of Isa, and Hugue Dufour, formally of M. Wells.

The cinematic brunches will be held September 22 and 23 at Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg, and they plan on screening Brooklyn classics like Saturday Night Fever and The Warriors to pair with dishes that represent the borough. Also on the 22nd and 23rd, the Fort Greene and Williamsburg flea markets will open up a food stand featuring vintage eats by various Le Fooding chefs. Finally, for the last night, they will have the Campfire Session, an energetic event at the Brooklyn Waterfront with live music and, of course, more food. 

This event will sell out, so get your tickets early!

Last Man Standing: How Gwynnett St. Beat The Odds

Even today, there are parts of Williamsburg, Brooklyn that aren’t that popular. The stretch of Graham Avenue where Carl McCoy’s Gwynnett St. is located has proven to be one of those spots, but in the last year as places around it like Motorino shut down (for alleged building issues) or concepts got completely flipped like the chef changes at Isa and Extra Fancy. The 10-month-old Gwynnet St., however, has remained strong. I went to the restaurant to find out how McCoy and his chef Justin Hilbert do it. The first step in successes, well, was McCoy’s decision to open up in Brooklyn.

“I think Brooklyn is the next kind of scene,” he said on a recent Friday night in the dining room. “I wanted to do a Manhattan-style restaurant with really good food, decent prices, and a neighborhood setting. With a lot of hard work and a really great professional team, I think we have accomplished that.”

Of course, he added, the good reviews helped. Hilbert agrees, and said, “I am thankful for Pete Wells’s review for The New York Times, people didn’t know who we were or where we were before that.” Now, the modern, sleek-lined room fills up most nights and critics continue to rave about the food and concept.

“We try to make food that tastes good and is a good value,” said Hilbert. “We are here to make food people enjoy and not just show off as chefs, though we do use some esoteric ingredients—but, they make sense.”

This means on any given night you can find a rotating list of dishes including one composed of carrots done in numerous ways from roasted, shaved, pickled, and made into flour. “Essentially, it’s bowl of carrots, but it’s elevated,” said Hilbert. “Our focus is to create dishes understandable to everyone, but a little more fun.” Hilbert, who trained under molecular gastronomist Wylie Dufresne at wd-50, tries to think about food through a different angle, and, like his mentor, he likes to play with textures and flavors most people wouldn’t think could work. Soon, he said, look out for his next creative dish revolving around sea vegetables.

Even though Hilbert has his fun with some of the menu items, another thing that keeps Gwynnett St. going strong is the comfort side of the menu. This can easily be seen in the their staple whiskey bread, which comes from a modified recipe Hilbert got from his friend’s Irish grandmother. It’s so good that every reviewer has raved about it, and it’s the one thing that they won’t take off the menu as long as they are there.

“We have had good receptions,” said McCoy. “People come in not knowing what to expect, and so far, we can sort of wow them.”

Isa Gets New Chefs and Brunch

When Taavo Somer opened his Brooklyn restaurant Isa during the fall of 2011, gourmands flocked to get a taste of chef Ignacio Mattos’s eclectic menu. Eric Asimov of The New York Times described it as having a “complementary primitive aesthetic,” and he wasn’t alone in being charmed by the Williamsburg haunt. Yet, despite the reviews, Isa shut down this June after Mattos and other chefs left.

Now the popular shop is up and running again, but, while the owner, space, and name of the restaurant remain the same, the menu, brunch, and chef are different. Actually, there are two new chefs:Preston and Ginger Madson,a husband and wife team from Peels and Freemans. Their latest menu reflects Somer’s desire to have more of a rustic and hearty type of restaurant with a Mediterranean spin.

“Isa was always meant to be a cozy, neighborhood dining destination,” said Preston. “With the new menu, I’m trying to have something for everyone so no one feels excluded, and people that live in the neighborhood can come in and have a good meal a couple times a week.”

This means the new menu is more versatile than the original dishes, which involved items like deep-fried sardine bones and meals based on color. For brunch, the Madsons are sticking with the comfy and cozy vibe and have added Mediterranean-style plates of oven-baked eggs on polenta with pesto and tomato sauce, caramelized grapefruit, and sourdough pancakes with whipped ricotta. Don’t skip the drinks either: their beverage menu features dill-infused gin, bay leaf-infused vodka, watermelon juice, Sun Chai tea, and a cocktail called the Dayboat Swizzle, which involves absinthe, almond, and lime. Yum. But don’t take my word for it; starting tomorrow you can taste the goods yourself. 

San Francisco: Top 5 Date Spots That Won’t Break You

imageYou’re not cheap, you just prefer the authentic ethnic experience thing.

1. Zazie (Cole Valley) – Darling French bistro where raviolis come stuffed with chèvre and fig (of course they do). 2. Isa (Marina) – Superb French tapas served family-style on twinkling fairytale tented back patio. 3. Thep Phanom (The Haight) – The city’s best and hippest Indo-Pak restaurant by far.

4. Pagolac (Tenderloin) – Great place for see-I’m-hip date in the Tenderloin, but skip the after-dinner stroll. 5. farmerbrown (Union Square) – California cuisine gone Southern soul food. We love fusion!